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4 Questions to Help Keep Your Energy Costs in Check

Written by Leah Ingram .
Have you been staying home more these days — you know, because of the economy? All of those money-saving changes could be having a positive overall effect on your pocketbook, but an adverse affect on your energy bills. If you're wondering why, here are a few answers that will help you improve your energy habits and bills.
UPDATED: 07/21/11 | Originally Published: 06/16/09

Have you been staying home more these days — you know, because of the economy? Cooking at home instead of eating out? Renting movies or watching them on demand instead of going to the movies? Washing your clothes instead of bringing them to the cleaners?

All of those money-saving changes could be having a positive effect on your pocketbook overall, but an adverse affect on your energy bills. Alternatively, maybe you’ve made some green changes to your lifestyle, like swapping out old-fashioned, energy-sucking incandescent light bulbs for the compact fluorescent kind, or replacing old windows with energy-efficient ones, but you still don’t see your bills doing down. Can't figure out why that is?

The Alliance to Save Energy, a coalition of prominent business, government, environmental, and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy worldwide, has some tips — here are four reasons your energy bills might not be where you'd like them to be, and how you can keep your energy costs in check from now on:

  1. Could it be the dreaded “Snackwell effect?”

    Just as dieters gorge on low-calorie/low-fat cookies in the erroneous belief that the calories “don’t count” and they won’t gain weight, some people who buy energy-efficient appliances, lighting, or electronics may sabotage their efforts to save energy and money by using them more often than they would otherwise. Even if you’ve got CFLs in all of your rooms, you should still turn on only the minimum number of lights you need, and turn off the lights when you leave a room.

  2. Have you added new products that use electricity and therefore increase your overall energy use?

    Perhaps your electronics don’t carry the Energy Star certification label, the symbol of energy efficiency. Or perhaps you are simply plugging in more products than you did before. Do you remember to unplug those electronics when they’re not use? That’s one way to start saving money on energy bills. Another good tip: You should only purchase electronics with the Energy Star label on them (even Dustbusters are Energy Star-rated these days!).

  3. Have your energy-service providers increased rates in your area?

    One way to find out if rates have gone up is to ask your energy provider. If they have, find out if they offer any reduced rates for off-peak times or any other rate possibilities, like a levelized bill (that’s a bill where you’re charged for an average use, which tends not to fluctuate so much from month to month — helps with sticker shock, you know?). If your energy provider can’t answer your questions, the Alliance suggests doing the following:

    • Do a Google search on changes of energy rates by your provider.
    • Look for stories in your local newspapers and media — big rate increases often get major coverage.
    • Review your energy bills to see your month-by-month comparison of energy use, and what you were charged.
    • If you’re not satisfied with your current energy provider, consider switching. The Alliance suggests making your decision based on a combination of rates and cleaner energy sources for power.

  4. Are you staying at home more in this turbulent economy?

    Being at home for more hours each day can increase your energy bills, so practice good energy-conservation hygiene. Turn lights off when you leave a room, don’t keep unused electronics plugged in, and adjust the thermostat so that you’re not cooling or heating the entire house at once.

There are always more ways to save energy around the house. Be especially aware of energy vampires, and consider gadgets that can help you monitor or reduce your energy usage every day.

What energy-related cost do you have a hard time avoiding? Share your tips on reducing energy usage in the comments below!

Leah Ingram is the author of Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less (Adams Media, 2010) and founder of the popular blog Suddenly Frugal.

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  • Elaine F. 4 years ago
    the air conditioner.
  • 4 years ago

    Fist off, In answer to your question Lawrence, your computer/printer and monitor when not being used should be turned off. Best yet is to turn the power strip off, if your are using one. Same thing goes for all the charging units for cell phones, ipods gamiing systems etc... When not in use unplug.

    Secondly: Karen you can also try getting whats called "black out" curtains. They have a insulated backing to them to keep sun heat out and keeps heat in during the winter. You can find them at most retail stores reasonibly priced. Also try styrofoam, very popular in AZ homes. You can purchase large sheets of it at your local hardware store and cut to fit your windos and don't forget about any sliding gloass doors. double pane windows will also help. Check with your energy provide to see if any rebates may be availalbe too. check out for available rebates as well as your energy providers website & energystar,gov
  • 4 years ago
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  • 5 years ago
    I keep a watch on the times the front door is open. We limit the kids from going in and out.
  • 5 years ago
    I've heard that appliances should be unplugged when not in use; does that apply to computers also?
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